THE 2016 UPSR examination has just been concluded and I’m quite sure parents and teachers can now heave a sigh of relief. No?
As a parent whose child sat for the examination, I wish to express my opinion on some aspects related to the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) questions. I believe that since the concept was introduced, the HOTS questions have certainly become a hot topic among us Malaysians (pun intended).
Among the aims of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is to move away from rote learning and gear up our youngsters towards knowledge and skills such as creative thinking, innovation, problem-solving and leadership. It also aims to revamp the national examination and school-based assessments in stages, whereby by 2016 at least 40% of questions in Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and 50% in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are higher-order thinking questions (“Highlights of the National Education Blueprint”, The Star, Sept 6, 2013). Point taken.
Based on my understanding of the HOTS requirement, the emphasis is more on the students’ ability to understand and explain, for example, scientific or mathematical concepts, rather than memorising the concepts and regurgitating them in the examination. If this is true, then why are the candidates given the same amount of time to answer questions which are largely HOTS based, as in the previous UPSR format of non-HOTS questions?
This problem was evident as many candidates in my child’s school left the examination hall crying after the Mathematics Paper 2 as they did not have time to answer all the questions. And let’s not even get to the Bahasa Malaysia Paper 2 and the Science Paper 1 papers.
The simplest analogy I could think of to reflect the sorry situation our children are put under is as follows: On the first day, a person is tasked to pick 100 Type A fruits from Orchard X in one hour. The next day, the same person is tasked to pick 100 Types A, B and C fruits from Orchard X, Y and Z but in the same amount of time.
So, is HOTS really a test of speed or a test of understanding and critical thinking? Were pilot studies or simulation exercises on small groups of students carried out on the new format to gauge its suitability and effectiveness before it was implemented nationwide?
To my disappointment, the Education Blueprint Annual Report 2015 only contains half a page report (on page 86) out of its 174 pages on students’ performance in national examinations. These are very bare statistics without any analysis of the performance on each subject taken by the candidates in the UPSR, SPM and STPM examinations between 2013 and 2015. I’m sure parents with children both at primary and secondary level want to know the specific details, for example what was the percentage of HOTS question for each subject and how did the candidates fare in each of the subjects?
Giving a flimsy national percentage for the examinations will not reflect on the effectiveness or failure of the HOTS questions. If HOTS questions are needed to improve our education standard, then by all means please implement it but at least give the students more time to answer such complex questions. I’m sure 15 minutes of extra time for each paper will not hurt the whole examination process.
While the education blueprint is lauded for its achievements in other areas (based on the 2015 annual report), if the students are all blue in the face trying to answer HOTS questions in national examinations, then it appears that the HOTS concept is only good on paper!